Endurance Riding

Jul 02 2011

Wild West – Our First Multi-Day Ride!

Published by under Endurance Riding

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endurance-ridingWe arrived at ride camp in the Tahoe National Forest on Friday evening. And this time, I brought along the family – my husband, Gary, our boys, Jakob and Declan, and our new puppy, Asia. We got lucky with a perfect camp spot that was large enough for our truck and trailer, Asali’s electric fence paddock, the tent, a turn out area for the pup, and a “kitchen and dining room.”

endurance-ridingendurance-ridingI did not have time for a pre-ride on Friday, but I walked Asali around ride camp several times and then we vetted her in and attended the rider meeting. We called it an early night since I wanted to be rested for our 35 mile ride the following day (the longest distance we’ve done thus far).

On Saturday, I awoke at 5 am, two hours before ride time. I had a cup of tea and some oatmeal. Then I began getting Asali ready. I was extremely nervous (more than usual) and felt rushed for time (even though we had plenty of it). I got frustrated with Asali when she wouldn’t hold still for me to put her boots on. I found myself swearing like a sailor and I suddenly became conscious that my camp neighbors might think I was both crazy and that I possessed poor horsemanship skills. That’s when I realized I needed to take a moment to relax. Asali was feeding off my negative energy and my attitude needed to change quick if we were going to have a successful ride.

By 7 am, we were ready. Gary and the boys had directions to the vet check and my crew bag in hand. I was still feeling nervous, but by the time we got going on the trail, I was able to relax. As each horse and rider settled into their pace, I found myself riding with Peggy, an experienced endurance rider who has done the Tevis Cup more than once. Our horses rode well together and we ended up riding almost the entire first 20 miles together.

At the vet check, my crew was there. Jakob took care of Asali, holding her and offering her water. He also made her a mash and gave her some hay. Gary handed me a sandwich and a vitamin water, and gave me a great massage before he rubbed down Asali’s muscles. I couldn’t believe how much we got done in 30 minutes – and how great I felt afterwards. Asali and I were spoiled and I suddenly decided I never wanted to do an endurance ride again without a crew!

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My amazing crew.

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Just mounted and ready to go back out on the trail.

The last 15 miles, Asali and I rode by ourselves as Peggy and her mount had been on the 50 and had more trail to cover than us. We were already headed towards ride camp. We took it slower on the way back. I got off for awhile and hiked next to Asali. The last 6 miles were rough for us. Although I enjoyed the single track trail, it just seemed to keep going. At one point, I stopped and looked at the map, thinking we were lost. We also had more than one mountain biker come up from behind us, spooking Asali. And towards the end of the ride, two dirt bikers (on a trail where motorized vehicles weren’t supposed to go) came rushing up on us when we were at a full gallop.

Finally, we caught up to another limited distance rider in front of us. We rode in together and I let her present her horse for P & R (pulse and respirations) before us. However, her horse had difficulty pulsing down and so Asali and I got the placement before them (we came in fifth out of six starters with a ride time of 4 hours and 37 minutes).

On Sunday morning, I looked at Gary and said, “I don’t really want to ride today.” I was sore and tired from the day before. And I wasn’t sure how Asali was feeling. But, I wasn’t going to quit. I was going to stick with the original plan, which was to see how we did in a 2-day limited distance ride before attempting our first 50.

So, I went through the routine of getting Asali ready. This time I wasn’t rushed or feeling any pressure. I had decided we would take it slow (we were riding the 25, which actually turned out to be more like 30 miles since ride management had to make some last minute trail changes). And the ride out time of 9:30 helped – I appreciated having an extra 2 and 1/2 hours that morning.

At the starting line, we were told the first several miles would be all single track trail, so those horses who wanted a fast start should stay up front and those who wanted a slow start should be in the back. Today, we had approximately 15 starting. My plan had been to ride slow to give Asali and I a break, but my horse had a different idea. We ended up leading the pack at the beginning of the ride, in third position. As soon as the trail widened, I asked to pass because I was having trouble holding Asali back. She took off galloping. A woman named Linda stuck with us on her Morgan horse. It was their first ride and Linda’s horse seemed to be able to keep up with Asali. Linda did not want to ride alone, so I told her she could ride into the vet check with us.

I enjoyed Linda’s company. She asked me a lot about the sport of endurance and I suddenly became her mentor for the day, which made me proud. At one point, we were on the top of a mountain, overlooking a meadow below and snow-capped mountains in the distance. Neither one of us had a camera, but we stopped to take a mental picture and breath the fresh air for a moment.

We rode into the vet check after only an hour and 38 minutes! Asali and I beat our crew there. At first, this made me panic a little, but two volunteers came to my aid and helped me untack Asali and get her water and feed (which was provided by ride management). They also had lemonade and pretzels for me. Another woman, who was crewing for someone else, also gave Asali some mash she had prepared for the horse she was crewing for. I was so thankful for everyone’s willingness to help – endurance is definitely a team sport!

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Day 2: The vet check and mandatory 30-minute hold was in a beautiful meadow.

This time, even though we pulsed down right away as usual, I decided to wait before vetting in. I allowed Asali to rest and eat before presenting her to the vet, which turned out to be in our benefit – she got all As on the vet check! I let her eat some meadow grass, and then my family (who arrived 5 minutes before our ride out time) helped me tack her back up and send us on our way.

Again, we were alone on the second part of trail. Linda’s horse had difficulty pulsing down and therefore, had a longer hold at the vet check. While I enjoy meeting new friends on the trail, I also savor the time alone with my horse. Those are the times we are most connected, when I can really hear her speaking to me.

Asali wanted to rush to the finish, but she began tripping a lot, so I knew she was getting tired. I dismounted and led her for awhile. Then, when I re-mounted, we picked up a fox trot, which is slower than her pace. We had many riders on the 50 pass us, but I was confident we were still one of the front-runners on the limited distance ride.

Janet, also riding a Missouri Fox Trotter, caught up to us just as were approaching the finish line. Asali and I came in second place with a ride time of 3 hours and 38 minutes, and Janet and her fox trotter took third right behind us! I was extremely delighted and knew we were ready for our first 50! I walked Asali into ride camp, hooting and hollering, to give my husband, our biggest fan, a high-five. Jakob helped me prepare Asali for the last vet check, and then we took time to rest.

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Walking into ride camp after crossing the finish in second place!

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After the ride, Asali and I went through the final vet check. Here, the vet is observing her for soundness. She was deemed "fit to continue." 🙂

At the awards ceremony that night, I was awarded the Horsemanship Award for the day, which was given to the rider who took the best care of her horse that day. The vets commented on what a happy horse Asali was and how great she looked. I was even more proud of that Horsemanship Award than I was of our second place finish. I realized that when I relax, send out positive energy, and refuse to put pressure on myself or my horse, we perform much better.

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Hugging head vet, Melissa Ribley, after receiving the Horsemanship Award. (Dr. Melissa Ribley won the Haggin Cup in 2009, the Best Condition Award at the Tevis Cup.)

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Adventures in Ride Camp:

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Declan sweet-talked a couple of Ride & Tie competitors into a pony ride.

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Asia sniffs the tree to make sure it isn't going to attack her.

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The boys slept in the horse trailer so as not to get eaten by bears. Since our camp was on a bit of a slope, both boys ended up at the far end of the trailer by morning.

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Declan finds himself using bailing twine to keep track of the kitten he was asked to babysit for during the ride.

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Gary resorts back to his old Puerto Rican tricks after I accidentally lock my keys in the tack room of the horse trailer.

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Asali gives a ride to a young volunteer in exchange for some time with a trough full of grass and alfalfa.

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It just wouldn't be camping without roasting marshmallows.

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Wild West – Our First Multi-Day Ride!”

  1. Katieon 05 Jul 2011 at 11:21 pm

    I sure love your stories!!! What a fun weekend! Congratulations on the horsemanship award, that’s outstanding :).

  2. Carol Baileyon 06 Jul 2011 at 1:16 am

    Love this ! Great pictures too! Congrats on all your success!

  3. Zoeyon 08 Jul 2011 at 12:18 am

    You guys are a true inspiration.

    Keep up the good work!

    Zoey Star
    Webmaster
    Girly Tattoos

  4. Ann Byrnson 11 Jul 2011 at 7:51 pm

    Congratulations on your great finish! Love, Mom

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